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Project MERCCURI 'crowdsourced' space station samples take flight
Date:3/14/2014

Host Natalie Morales from the Today Show wiped Al Roker's weather wall, as well as a camera and teleprompter with a cotton swab back in October. But just what did she and her co-host Willie Geist expect to find? They were citizen scientists looking for microbes--the tiny invisible, bacteria, viruses and fungi that may live on the sampled surfaces. Once captured, these televised swabs joined the Project MERCCURI collection that includes samples from museums, historical monuments and sporting venues. This massive "crowdsourced" gathering effort's full name is Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on the International Space Station, which references its mission to send the litany of microbes to the space station for research.

"The whole goal of this project was to be a citizen science project and to engage the public as much as possible," said David Coil, Ph.D. and co-investigator. "It was designed with public collection in mind. We collected from a few really cool venues including Sue the T. Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago, the Today Show, the Liberty Bell, and several NFL/NBA stadiums. We have received an extremely enthusiastic response from people. There has been a lot of interest at these public venues in helping us collect samples which has been great."

The project is a partnership with microBEnet, ScienceCheerleaders, Space Florida, NanoRacks, NASA, and SciStarter.com. The samples are scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX-3 mission in March 2014. Once aboard, operations begin within a few days of docking and will run for nine days in the microgravity environment. Before being stowed to ship home with the returning Dragon spacecraft, the station crew will add their own samples to the collection by swabbing the surfaces of the orbiting laboratory. This will allow researchers on the ground at the University of California, Davis, to use the station swab
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Contact: Laura Niles
Laura.E.Niles@nasa.gov
281-244-7069
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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